SF Bay Area’s newest milonga: “El Pato Loco” (The Crazy Duck!)
Since the inaugural launch in March at the Starline Social Club in Oakland, the milonga has attracted a great crowd of tango dancers looking to spend a casual Sunday afternoon dancing. The third edition is happening this Sunday June 9, 12 PM to 4 PM, with DJ Selene playing traditional tango music.
The milonga is held on the 2nd floor of the club, a historic Victorian building built in 1893, featuring a 4,000 sq ft sprung maple dance floor and professional sound system. There are alfajores and empanadas being sold at the milonga by Wooden Table Cafe, a local Argentine owned business (who are tango dancers themselves) and a bar in-house with a fantastic assortment of drinks (beer, wine, cocktails, mocktails, juice, tea, iced coffee, including some refreshing tango-themed mixes). The first floor is also a bar and restaurant which has already found many dancers hanging out post-milonga, loathe to part from each other’s company. A good sign they had a great time and still wanting to continue the positive tango vibes!
Its time slot helps answer a question often raised by passionate tango dancers – an eclectic bunch that run the gamut of Bay Area work-life – artists, teachers, engineers, students, yogis, biotechies, traveling sales-folks, baristas, webdevs and more. When the laundry and other necessary weekend chores are done, and being responsible adults (most of the time) trying as hard as possible to not stay out too late on a Sunday evening: “Where can I dance on a weekend afternoon?”
As it is often challenging to find an enjoyable place to dance, and especially in larger tango communities like San Francisco’s, success is determined by multiple factors. Is it convenient to get to? Is it affordable and sustainable to run? Is the venue enjoyable to dance in (floor, temperature, ambiance, music, etc)? Is there food and drink at reasonable cost? These are some of the things, though not the only ones, that can contribute to the overall appeal, and are often questions only answered after some time.
The hosts, Hereen Oh, and Scott Boddye, are local tango dancers presenting this milonga in partnership with Starline and the support of tango friends. Having recently moved to SF from NYC just a few years ago, they arrived as dancers not having “grown up” in the area, starting fresh and looking to make the Bay Area their home – in both the literal and figurative senses of the word – physically, emotionally, and in this specific context: their “tango home”.
Having danced for years in New York and the East Coast, as well as a lengthy sojourn of several months in Buenos Aires just prior to moving to the Bay, El Pato Loco is built upon their own hopes, principles, and unfulfilled tango needs that they’d surfaced as they began settling in. Arriving in the Bay Area just as a popular Sunday early evening milonga in Oakland was ending (the now closed Studio 1924 venue), and for a couple of years taking in the depth and breadth of the Bay Area tango scene as regular social dancers, they experienced the challenges of meeting people, making friends, and witnessed milonga organizers’ struggles to keep venues and events both vibrant and sustainable.
They danced at as many of the tango events they could find, large and small, checking out what the area had to offer, and making new friendships and connections. But their experience getting to know the SF Bay Area community as new members from elsewhere, vs. the many of us who grew up learning and living tango here for years, combined with a desire to find their own tango home, has perhaps given them an insightful perspective (though perhaps not uncommon):
Hereen shared, “…for a while, everywhere we went, we didn’t know anybody, and that forces you to really look around, really do the cabeceo stuff…” Attending smaller and less attended tango events connected them with dancers they otherwise wouldn’t have met at larger venues. In a relatively short period of time, they have come to know the community well, perhaps in ways better than folks living within it for years might know itself.
At the least, their early tango experiences dancing in the Bay have given them fresh momentum in creating El Pato Loco. With the recent closure (though hopefully only temporarily) of a popular Saturday afternoon tango event in SF – the practica at Bissap Baobab – Hereen and Scott finally decided to start El Pato Loco with a careful “soft launch”, to relatively quiet fanfare, inviting all the folks they knew, and arrived with resoundingly successful beginnings. Both the first and second events were well received, showing solid promise with the support of many of the Bay’s avid social dancers and organizers in attendance, they’ve decided to continue to hold the milonga on a monthly basis, to the delight of their supporters.
Why El Pato Loco?
(Photo Credit: www.teresatamstudio.com) During their stay in Buenos Aires, while attending a musicality workshop with a couple of popular, internationally renowned maestros, the teachers used the example, “como un gato enojado” in an effort to explain their idea – which from then on became an ongoing joke between them to explain those vague concepts often difficult to grasp in tango, often not making much sense at all. “Como un gato enojado!” “Like an angry cat!”
So in coming up with the name, they played around with the idea, names like “”La Cabra Ansiosa,” “El Perro Relajante,” or “El Pollo Borracho,” with a playfulness true to their “tongue-in-cheek” humor, as many of their friends know of them. And so was born, “El Pato Loco,” because it was “easiest to remember…and…rolled off the tongue,” says Scott. 🙂
They’ve reached out to attendees for feedback via online surveys in addition to checking in with folks both during and post-milonga, and tweaks to improve things from the first event to the second are noticeable. Like mama y papa patos, Hereen and Scott are lovingly and thoughtfully growing a place where patitos locos can go to dance. Quack, quack, go, enjoy, and wish them well!
In addition to the past Facebook events linked above, check out these wonderful Facebook photo albums created by various tango community members who’ve attended. And for more details, join the Milonga El Pato Loco Facebook group! To get in contact with the hosts, you can reach them at ElPatoLocoMilonga@gmail.com.